We’ve heard it all before … UK workers are lazy and unproductive, but we work more hours than our European counterparts. It takes 5 days for us to produce as much as a German worker can in 4 days, yet we still want (and think we can achieve) a 4-day working week.
Are UK workers unproductive, or is it something else?
During an 8-hour work day, a UK office worker is reported to only work for 3 hours, spending the rest of the time reading the news, on social media, smoking, eating food, socialising and looking for other jobs. The 3 hours doesn't include meetings, some of which we all know are an utter waste of time.
So yes, we could focus a little more, work harder and work smarter. But what is our motivation to do so?
Will switching to a 4-day week save us?
The concept of the 4-day working week is a great opportunity for organisations. Studies point to increased employee engagement, well-being, and productivity, with only a few downsides reported. But in reality, and from what we have seen, it’s not always so rosy. Wednesday soon becomes the new Thursday, 3-day weekends get out of hand, etc etc.
Implementing a 4-day working week is complex and has a significant de-stabilising impact on a business operating model. The danger is that an organisation shifts to a 4-day week only to realise that it is not delivering in the way they had hoped, just look at what happened to Treehouse. This is costly, demotivating, and also sets a precedent with staff which is very difficult to roll back.
As such it is wise for businesses to run trial periods where teams condense their work into 4 days and use the 5th day to deliver a project of value aligned to business strategy. By testing the compressed working concept in a controlled and time-bounded manner - with clear goals for the extra day – business leaders and teams can assess the value and impact of shifting work to 4 days a week while creating value in the process.
But where can we find the time?
It is at the leadership, management and overarching operational level where interventions need to be made. Teams and individuals are often frustrated by the pace of work, visibility to decision making and leadership bottlenecks. Unmotivated and frustrated staff are unproductive, but they somehow still manage to get their work completed in 3 hours. Imagine what they could do if they were motivated.
There are of course some quick and simple wins that can be made at an individual level. For example, take 15 mins off every meeting you attend for actually completing the actions from the meeting. It’s that simple. So, what is holding you back from doing it? What is your fascination with 30 and 60-minute meetings - what have they ever done for you?